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South Africa has been subjected to the influence of decades of colonialism resulting in the marginalization of traditional healing practices. African traditional medicines are still believed to be effective against a range of diseases and conditions. The World Health Organization encourages active collaboration between academic researchers and traditional healers-a relationship which remains fragile. The aim of this study was to determine the willingness of traditional healers to collaborate with researchers to further develop their traditional medicines.
A mixed quantitative and qualitative approach was used in this study. Face-to-face interviews were carried out among 180 eligible traditional healers using researcher administered semi-structured questionnaires, with close-ended and open-ended questions, in urban and rural areas of KZN province between August and November 2015.
The majority of traditional healers (132/168, 79.5%) in this study expressed strong willingness to co-operate with researchers to further develop their medicines Gunnera perpansa or Ughobo (6/168, 3.6%), Warburgia salutaris or Isibhaha (3/168, 1.8%), Hypoxis hemerocallidea or Ilabatheka (3/168, 1.8%) and Drimia delagoensis or Umahlanganisa (2/168, 1.2%) were found to be strongly recommended for further research. Nine percent of traditional healers (15/168) raised concerns about the availability of medicinal plants and animal species, and the non-transmission of traditional knowledge from one generation to another.
In conclusion, traditional healers in this study express a strong willingness to collaborate with researchers. A few traditional medicines (Gunnera perpansa or Ughobo, Warburgia salutaris or Isibhaha, Hypoxis hemerocallidea or Ilabatheka and Drimia delagoensis or Umahlanganisa) were strongly recommended to be subjected to further scientific evaluation. Concerns were raised by traditional healers about the disappearance of traditional knowledge and the shrinking of plant and animal species used as traditional medicines. Further studies on chemical composition and biological activities of the above-mentioned plant species perceived as most effective by traditional healers are recommended.